Sunday, July 4, 2010

CWG athletes most vulnerable in transit

With less than 90 days left for the Commonwealth Games, a leading US-based strategic think tank has warned that athletes will be most vulnerable to terrorist attacks while in transit to and from the venues.

These experts cite the example of the Sri Lankan cricket team which was attacked by terrorists in Lahore in Pakistan on March 3, 2009 when the team was travelling by bus to the stadium. Providing security amid Delhi's chaotic traffic could prove difficult, they said.

"After the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lankans, the Indian authorities will try to secure the teams during transit, but securing travel routes is more difficult than securing hotels and venues -- especially with the heavy traffic in India.

"This means that the athletes will be slightly more vulnerable during transit than at their hotels or sporting venues. The athletes could also be vulnerable should they choose to leave the protective cordon around them," Vice- President of Tactical Intelligence, Stratfor, Scott Stewart said.

Possibly because of such fears the authorities in Delhi have already ordered markets, schools and colleges to remain shut during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games to keep traffic on the roads to the minimum.

Besides, Stratfor said, anti-national elements may also eye malls, markets and other crowded places as 'soft targets' during the Games apart from venues and hotels.

"The Indian government has had a couple of years now to think about this event, plan for it and watch how security has been conducted at other high-profile events like the World Cup and Olympics.

"Given this tight security environment, it is possible that any militant group planning an attack would choose to go after soft targets including shopping malls, bars and clubs, or even crowds outside of the main venues waiting to enter the facility. So our assessment is that soft targets and crowds are more at risk than the athletes," he said.

Over 70 countries will participate in the mega sporting event scheduled here from October 3-14 this year. Delhi Police and Central security agencies are striving to ensure adequate security for the event, which is being hosted by the country for the first time.

Dengue arrives in Delhi, before season

Dengue has arrived in the capital, and well before its time. With two cases confirmed and some others being reported, the dengue virus-carrying mosquitoe’s bite is giving the administration worrying moments.

Officials say the heavy digging work around the city for the Commonwealth Games and accumulation of water at homes may be responsible for breeding of the Aedes mosquito earlier this year. Dengue usually hits the capital after the monsoon season, when the mosquitoes breed in stagnant water after the rains.

Two cases were reported in the last week of June.

“It is the first report of dengue in the national capital this year. Dengue has struck before season. June is not the month for expecting the disease, it is a big cause for worry,” Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Chief Medical Officer N.K. Yadav told IANS.

“Two cases have been reported from Moolchand and St. Stephens Hospital respectively in the month of June, though it is not the usual time for this disease,” he said.

The first major outbreak of dengue occurred in Delhi in 2006 September. Last year, Delhi reported three dengue deaths while over 1,000 people were affected by the disease.

According to Yadav, “Both the patients were admitted to hospitals on June 26 with high fever, severe headache, nausea and body pain. The hospital authorities have forwarded us details about the patient. We have collected blood samples from their family as well to ascertain that other members are not affected,” he said.

Dengue infections have also been reported from some other private hospitals.

“My son was admitted to Max with high fever and dengue was confirmed on July 1. The health department sent its officials to check mosquito breeding in our area. The MCD has been prompt in fogging the area as well,” said Ranjana, a resident of Gulmohar Park in south Delhi.

She said that another child in the hospital was being treated for suspected dengue. “The hospital doctors told me they had treated two other children for dengue this week,” she said.

Agreeing that cases were reported earlier this year, health experts said preventive measures should be taken to prevent the mosquitoes from breeding.

“When the monsoon arrives, the incessant rains will lead to water logging and there will also be sudden fall in temperature. This may lead to rise in number of dengue cases,” D.K. Keshar from the Asian Institute of Medical Science at Faridabad, told IANS.

“It is early to expect dengue, but since cases are being reported, prevention is the key word,” said Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant Internal Medicine at Delhi’s Apollo hospital.

The MCD says it is geared up to tackle dengue, especially since the Commonwealth Games are round the corner. According to Yadav, authorities are fully prepared to handle the situation with special response teams ready to address the problem.

“A total of 34 government hospitals identified as ’sentinel surveillance hospitals’ are ready to deal with rising cases of dengue,” he said, adding, “In addition, Rapid Response Teams are being constituted in each of the 12 zones of the MCD.”

The typical symptoms of dengue are high fever for four-five days, usually accompanied by headache and bodyache, after which the patient’s platelet counts begin to fall and rashes could also occur. This is the period when the patient’s condition has to be monitored continuously, doctors say.

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